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Obama has adopted Israel's demands - Rashid Shahin

May 22, 2011 1:32 A.M. (Updated: May 24, 2011 4:11 P.M.)
By: Rashid Shahin
In an attempt to tickle the emotions of the Arab masses, for the second time in less than two years, President Obama addressed the Arabs by speaking about democracy, freedom and human rights.

When he came to Cairo at the beginning of June 2009, Obama addressed 1.5 billion Arabs and Muslims and made a frank appeal for a fresh start and a new relationship, based on mutual respect and understanding.

The speech was warmly welcomed by a majority of Arabs and Muslims, especially when the man – of the same color and the son of a Muslim - was the first US president to acknowledge its past mistakes.

Since his speech in Cairo, not only the masses but also writers, intellectuals, politicians and all those who preached the new US era felt frustrated and disappointed after Obama's retractions with regard to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; for them, it was proof that the new administration is no different from any previous administration.

The Cairo speech was an attempt to polish America's image which was disfigured and distorted by former President George Bush, during the occupation of Iraq, and the massacres committed under false pretext.

In Cairo, Obama devoted three-quarters of his speech to the conflict, while in his last speech he left this issue to the last few minutes, despite knowing that this is the core of all issues for the people of this region. And when he did speak about the conflict, he wasn’t persuasive; he failed to convince people of his vision.

Despite the beautiful and soft words about democracy, freedom and human rights, or the way he praised the Arab spring revolutions, Arab citizens will not forget that the same president and his administration strongly supported the tyrant of Egypt.

They acknowledge that when Obama chose the Egyptian capital to address a billion and a half Muslims, he was sending a message of support for the regime of Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt in an arbitrary and oppressive fashion.

The observers noted he spoke at length about human rights, democracy and freedom, ignoring such rights for Palestinians; when he referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict he spoke only about what he believes to be the suffering of the Israeli citizen, and about security; he never mentioned the suffering of the Palestinian people, under occupation for more than four decades.

In his Middle East speech, Obama adopted the Israeli story and their demands; he spoke as if he were the Israeli prime minister.

In fact, Obama called for a Jewish state, a land swap without defining the size of this land, gradual and phrased withdrawal from occupied territories, a Palestinian demilitarized state, and strong and strict security arrangements for the sake of Israel, postponing the core issues such as Jerusalem and the refugees.

The speech included what Israel always asked Palestinians for, security arrangements, which in fact was the main issue for Israel during 20 years of negotiations.

Most importantly, with severe contempt, Obama threatened Palestinians. He warned them of attempting to attain recognition at the UN, he said he would not allow them to isolate Israel; he looked at this step as an attempt to delegitimize Israel. This won't create an independent state, Obama said.

According to Israelis, the above points were on the agenda of Netanyahu. "What more could he want," an Israeli source stated. Obama rejected the Palestinian reconciliation agreement as well as the Palestinians' recognition campaign.

Obama promised he wouldn’t impose a deal on Israel, he demanded both sides return to negotiations. He did not condemn the settlement building in the occupied territories, he didn’t consider them as illegitimate or obstructing the peace process as he did before, and of course he didn’t call for a settlement freeze. On the contrary, he was trying to justify the settlements by saying they continue because negotiations stopped.

Some Israeli intellectuals and many Palestinians are convinced that the Palestinian leadership will not return to negotiations under such conditions.

Despite the biased position taken by the president, shortly after Obama's speech, Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel would not be withdrawing to the 1967 borders as part of a peace deal with the Palestinians. He added that he expects Washington to allow Israel to keep the major settlement blocs in any deal.

In another direct message to Obama, the Israeli Interior Ministry approved two plans for 1,550 housing units in Jerusalem. Both plans are located beyond the 1967 borders, the Green Line.

Israel's Ynet reports that "the timing for the decision of the Har Homa plan is not coincidental."

One committee member, Yair Gabai, said: "The district committee never convenes at such late hours. This is a declaration of a diplomatic nature meant to clear the fog around the Jerusalem question, so that nobody in the world would think that the Israeli government intends to discuss Jerusalem's division."

After all that was said by Obama, the Israeli prime minister could not be more satisfied at the outcome of his visit to Washington; the US president has complied with all his demands.

Rashid Shahin is a Palestinian journalist and analyst based in Bethlehem.
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